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My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier
A protester camps out at St. Paul's Cathedral last month in London. Tony Perkins says Jesus had a different view of "occupy."
December 6th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier

Editor's note: Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington.

By Tony Perkins, Special to CNN

(CNN) - One of the last instructions Jesus gave his disciples was "Occupy till I come."

As Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem for the last time, just before his crucifixion, he was keenly aware that his disciples greatly desired and even anticipated that the kingdom of God was going to be established immediately on the earth.

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As a way to break the news that it wasn't going to happen in the manner and with the timing they expected, Jesus pulled them aside and gave them instructions by way of a parable.

The primary purpose of the parable, which appears in the Gospel of Luke, was to make clear to his disciples that the kingdom of God would not be physically established on the earth for some time and that, until then, they were being entrusted with certain responsibilities.

Jesus, depicted as a ruler in the story, would have to leave for a while as he traveled to a faraway place to receive authority to reign over the kingdom. In his absence, the disciples - depicted as servants - were to "occupy" until he returned.

Here's the direct quote from Luke: "He called his ten servants, and gave to them ten minas, one mina each (a mina today would be worth around $225), and he then told them to 'Occupy till I come.' " (Luke 19:13, King James Version)

But just what does Jesus' order to occupy mean? Does it mean take over and trash public property, as the Occupy movement has? Does it mean engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive?

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No, the Greek term behind the old English translation literally means "be occupied with business." As with all parables, Jesus uses a common activity such as fishing or farming to provide a word picture with a deeper spiritual meaning.

From a spiritual perspective, the mina in this parable represents the opportunity of life; each of us is given the same opportunity to build our lives, and each of us shares the same responsibility to invest our lives for the purpose of bringing a return and leaving a legacy. Jesus gave equal responsibility and opportunity to each of his 10 servants.

The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked. When the nobleman returns, after being established as king - a stand-in for Jesus - he calls all his servants together to see what they had accomplished in his absence.

The first servant reports a nice profit: 10 minas. While the story lacks specifics on whether he invested the money in a herd of sheep or a hedge fund, we do know that he made his gain by engaging in business transactions of some sort. He used a free market system to bring a tenfold return on investment. No doubt such a return took a lot of diligent, dedicated effort.

The newly established king praises the servant and gives him a reward that's an even greater return on his efforts, "because you have been faithful in very little I will give you authority over ten cities."

Likewise the second servant in the story, who had turned his one mina into five, is praised and rewarded with greater responsibilities: He is given five cities.

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The third servant in the story had apparently either slept through his economics course or was just indifferent to the work delegated to him.

He had essentially kept the capital entrusted to him under his mattress for safekeeping.

When called to give an account of what he had accomplished, the man immediately attempts to shift the focus off his failure with excuses of how unfair the boss was because he was always trying to get more than he deserved for his money.

The employee review is immediate and intense: "Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant." The king's disappointment and frustration are nearly palpable. "Why didn't you at least put the money in the bank and draw interest?" the king inquires.

While such language might prompt an HR complaint today, its meaning was quite clear to the disciples. There are no excuses for doing nothing.

Parables generally have a twist near the end, a final jolt to drive the point home. This one is no exception. The ruler orders that the capital, or opportunity, given to the lazy servant be taken from him and given to the most productive servant. "To everyone who has, more shall be given," the Bible reads, "but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away."

Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy - equal outcomes for inequitable performance. There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual.

Some would argue that such an approach encourages abuses, the likes of which we have seen on Wall Street. While some egregious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise.

The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed.

Remember, these servants were not working for themselves, but under the constraints of their lord and for his benefit. Likewise our free market system works when bridled by morality. Not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles.

Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused. Rather we are to occupy by  using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Perkins.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Economy • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (3,372 Responses)
  1. Geotigg

    OK ... Wait ...

    "Does it mean engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive?"

    How does this guy define 'anti-social'??

    Oh, and by the way, does this guy actually KNOW anyone (I mean by name) that CHOOSES to be 'unproductive'? I doubt he can provide even two names. Even if he COULD, is he trying to say that the Department of Labor statistics are in-accurate?? There really are more jobs than job seekers out there?

    I LOVE how people like this cast a overly generalized blanket over things, then try t say they actually CARE about te less fortunate. I call guys this this C.I.N.O.s (Christians In Name Only)

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    I believe that interpreting this parable as an economic lesson is missing the point entirely, but that is your opinion so I will run with it. The Bible is not an economics book, but if we want to base our economic principles on biblical examples we should observe the year of Jubilee. God commanded the Israelites that every 50 years they would observe the year of Jubilee when all debts would be forgiven and when all property that had been sold would be returned to the original owners. Deuteronomy 23 says "You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it." Leviticus 25 says “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit." Nehemiah 5 provides an example of these principles in action.

    If we want to look for more economic advice from Jesus we can look at the story of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus "What must I do to be saved?" Jesus told him to obey the commandments and he said he already did. Jesus replied, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man left sad because he was very wealthy and Jesus said “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” In Luke 6:35 Jesus says "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil."

    If you want to get economic principles from the Bible that is fine. Just beware, because I believe if someone wants to get principles from the Bible they need to consider the entire Bible. Cherry picking one example and basing principles upon it is very dangerous. You should be careful in basing your economic ideas on the Bible unless you are ready to embrace all the ideas and commands that are presented there.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • mike

      BAM! You crushed it out of the ballpark. Nice post.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  3. Hilikus00

    This is a political jab disguised as religion...how disgusting, yet common.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  4. RJB

    Man, what a way to twist the Bible to support your opinion. How many people would support this article? Hmmm...maybe 1%?!?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  5. arlma

    I get it...this article must be a joke right? There is no way anyone who knows anything about Christianity and the teachings of Christ could ever miss the mark so blatantly as Mr Perkins has.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  6. Randy

    Perkins appears rather transparent.
    His political agenda is clear, his love for his fellow man is not.
    Anybody can twist some aspect of the Bible to support their political view.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • mike

      It is impossible for one to be a TRUE follower of Jesus and also be as wealthy as Tony Perkins is...no matter what the TV evangelicals or The Vatican say. I'm not saying it's wrong to be rich, but one CANNOT be rich AND a true Christian. And no, most "Christians" aren't, but nor are they claiming to be religious leaders like this hack here. A poor, generous agnostic has more in common with Jesus than a wealthy evangelical.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @mike,
      "I'm not saying it's wrong to be rich..."
      Yes, I think you are saying exactly that.
      Assuming that you think, non-Christian religions are wrong, then it is wrong not to be Christian. If "one CANNOT be rich AND a true Christian," then it is wrong to be rich, admit it.

      Of course, then you have to define 'rich'.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  7. RrP

    Attention campers, lunch has been cancelled today, due to lack of hustle. Deal with it...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  8. mike

    I love Tony's line about how the system ALLOWS us to be free and choose to be unproductive. It betrays an unspoken belief on his part that slavery would be a perfectly natural thing, and that the 99-percenters are only free because he and the rest of the wealthy are so very kind to permit it.

    Tony is a blasphemous hack.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Andrew

    Re-posting this, as it captures a lot.

    There are some pretty fundamental objections to Christianity that are hard to get around. Now before some believer rants back at me that I am evil, an “angry atheist”, or going to burn for all eternity in hell, please take the time to actually read and cogitate the objections. If you have an objection to what I say – post it, if you only object to the fact that I said it – don’t waste your breath, I feel no duty to be quiet about them.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,700,000,000 years for h.o.mo sapiens to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This “all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers, so as to know if they think bad thoughts, so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.

    4. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

    5. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

    6. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something, which it most certainly is not, one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    7. The Bible is literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, ra.pe and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    8. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is honestly not believe in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    9. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Horus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Hilikus00

      This has nothing to do with this article. Coming from a fellow atheist...stop evangelizing, it makes you look like a pompous jerk, and the rest of us look bad by association.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  10. Phil

    Sounds like the guy is trying to justify that new Mercedes sitting in his driveway.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  11. Me

    Why does CNN keep giving these religious criminals a platform? Is Ted Turner scared of dying so he's turning to the story books now?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  12. Andrew Larson

    I'm tired of people using religion as a club. If there's indeed a god, this fellow will be in a bit of trouble for spewing such doggerel in his name.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  13. Jesus occupies hearts!!!

    not places or markets.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  14. rosehips

    "occupy till I come." I like it.

    The Occupy movement exemplifies what I believe Christ would support. This movement supports the meek. It supports the humble of heart. It does not support the corruption of our economic system by the wealthy, for the wealthy. I don't think Jesus would approve of the status quo and you shouldn't either.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  15. XO

    Superb article. You guys are the laziest generation yet and worse than broke– you are in debt. No one forced your hand to fill out credit card apps and take the american dream out on credit. Most of the work day, I find people surfing FB, YT and Tweeting while their jobs go out of the country.Try being socially responsible and working for a change. I'm tired of my hard earned tax dollars going to stimulus packages and bailouts. The folks who worked hard to build this country are in the graves. This generation is pathetically spoiled and lazy. Want first, pay later.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Me

      Go and die, you delusional bible reading moron.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • asdf

      Are you talking about the worst generation in American history the Baby Boomers? Its under their stewardship America lost its way.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • 24shamsky

      Ever consider the possibility that the problem isn't with this generation as a whole, but merely that productive people have better things to do with their time than spending it with a judgmental, self-righteous moron like yourself?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Dave

      I can think of only one thing that is more of a waste of time than occupying wall street: posting comments on CNN.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Anonymous

      If you look at actual statistics you will find that more people in this generation are going to college than in their parents generation or grandparents generation. You will also find that college tuition costs have increased much more rapidly than inflation. Going to college in modern America almost universally requires debt. But why even go to college? Our society tells children that if they do not go to college they will be failures and forced to flip burgers for the rest of their life. Our politicians decry American children falling behind in math and science. The fact of the matter is that it is getting harder and harder to get a well paying job without a degree. Rich people love to complain about the poor being lazy but it is nearly impossible to support a family of 4 on minimum wage incomes and even some of those are requiring a college degree. The promise of America is that if you work hard you will be rewarded with success. Many young people today worked hard and got a college degree but were told this country has no jobs for them. They are understandably angry and have every right to protest the economics and people that ruined this economy.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  16. asdf

    The greatest trick man played was getting fellow man to do his bidding in this life by promising crap he doesn't have to deliver in another life.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  17. Corvus1

    Some Christians are completely and utterly without shame.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  18. This is God posting from Heaven

    Tony doesn't speak for me. He's headed for the other place, if you know what I mean.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Nonimus

      That's what happens when you leave self-contradicting notes lying around.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  19. The Liberator

    This is such a crock. Maybe Christopher Hitchens is right: religion does poison everything.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  20. SocialJustice

    Logically flawed at all key junctions; let us count the ways. 1. The obviously stilted opinion that Occupiers are all antisocial deviants damaging public property. 2. Nowhere in the referenced Bible passage is a free market system mentioned or implied; many other market systems exisst and allow the results mentioned in the parable. 3. The suggestion that one reaps the rewards of one's dilligence and determination in the current market system is flatly wrong, demonstrable in hundreds of ways. 4. On the flip side of point 3, were dilligence rewarded appropriately then every single high-profile money maker involved in the crash/bailout fiasco would have been left penniless on the street.

    Now, aside from those CRITICAL logical flaws, if you honestly believe that Jesus was talking about ANY economic system in the parable, Mr. Perkins, you might want to stop drinking the psychedelic kool-aid.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.